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12 days in Italy with kids - itinerary review please

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DH and I have planned to take our family (3 kids - 14, 10, 10) to Italy for our first Italian tour mid-July for 12.5 days. DH and I like museums, but kids would rather prefer outdoor, gelato and other kid friendly activities. We intend to make the trip a mix of art and culture adventure - want to focus in Venice, Florence/Tuscany and Rome. I have been reading itineraries and trip reports on this site and a bit overwhelmed. Do not where to start.

We are flying from east coast USA and reaching Rome at 8:30am. This is part of our trip to India and we will have to fly into and out of Rome; hence we would have to drop our extra luggage at the left luggage place in the airport or termini station. We plan to take a train from termini station to Venice a the first day.

The rest of the itinerary might look like this:

Day 1: Reach Venice by 4pm - orient ourselves in the evening after checking in etc
Day 2: Tour Venice
Day 3: Tour Venice
Day 4: Go to either Florence by train or one Tuscany town by car early morning & tour Florence or the Tuscany town half a day.
Day 5: Tour Florence
Day 6: Day tour of Pisa and Lucca
Day 7: Tour Florence
Day 8: Tour Tuscany area
Day 9: Go to Rome early & tour Rome half a day
Day 10: Tour Rome
Day 11: Day trip to Pompeii
Day 12: Tour Rome
Day 13: A bit of Rome before heading to Airport from late afternoon flight.

I need help in deciding:

Will this plan work – Can we see the highlights of Venice, Florence and Rome in the allocated time?
Is it better to use the left luggage at Airport or Termini Station?
Is it better to stay inside Florence or in one Tuscany town since we want to see Pisa/Lucca? For our plan is car drive advisable?
Will Agrotourism fit into our schedule?

Thank you for your response in advance.

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    For Florence and Pisa and Lucca, it's best to base in Florence. You can also daytrip to Siena by bus from Florence.

    But I'm wondering if you want to spend 2.5 days in Florence itself. Most of the sight-seeing there is museums. And, for me, much of the attraction of Tuscany is the beauty of the southern Tuscan countryside. Neither of these things will be of great appeal to your children. Now if you rented a car, stayed at an agriturismo, a working farm with animals and a swimming pool, the children might like that better. If you chose your location carefully, you could daytrip into Florence. Another day you could drive to Lucca, see the town, especially its wall, then leave your car and train to Pisa and back to Lucca.

    But this last suggestion means you will not see so much in Florence.

    Another thought is to dedicate fewer days to Florence. Remember, if you are arriving in Rome after a long, overnight flight, you will be jet-lagged and sleepy. Your sight-seeing in Venice will slow down. And I think you could use more time in Rome itself.

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    Thank you Mimar for your response.
    For the actual days I am calculating about 2 full days in Venice not including the jet-lagged day we arrive.

    4.5 days in Florence/Tuscany/Lucca & Pisa

    4 days in Rome

    Are 2 days in Venice enough?

    For Florence area - If we stay in Florence and do day trips will 1.5 days for Florence be enough to see highlights? If we stay in an agroturismo is Lucca and Pisa doable? Staying agroturismo will split 2 days for Florence day trips and 2.5 days for Tuscany towns and Lucca & Pisa. Will that work or should I decrease Florence to 1 day only? Which place would be good for strategic location?

    In Rome - I want to take the kids to see Pompeii and it takes away one day. So, will about 3 days be enough for Rome highlights?

    Thx.

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    You can - barely - see a few of the highlights on your itinerary (I consider 3 full days - 4 nights - in Rome to be the minimum). If you are doing a day trip to Pompeii that would be instead of the anceint sights of Rome - not in addition. Or you will have to take a day from Florence and add to Rome (I think kids will like Rome a whole lot more - lower percentage of art to ruins).

    I don't think you need a car and you don't have time for an agriturismo. I would stay in Florence and spend one day ther and another seeing a couple of other towns either by train to taxi

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    Thank you nytraveler on your input.

    I am confused now. I think we have 4 days in Rome out of which we will use about 3 days time for Rome and 1 for Pompeii. Can we not see Rome's major sights in that time? I understand that seeing everything in Rome is not possible, but what can we do to fit the major sights?

    What about Florence and Venice time? Does that look ok?

    When you say you do not habe time for agrotusmo - what does that mean? If I stay in a agroturismo location and drive to different places does that count? It seems you are saying 1 day in Florence should be ok. that leaves about 3.5 days for the Tuscany/Pisa-Lucca. Is it better to stay within Florence city or outside?

    I would really aprreciate if others can provide feedback too.

    Thanks.

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    Junk4rp - It is always so hard to please kids, they want activities and fun stuff, especially 10-year olds, even more so if they are boys. I always had to fit in a fun park or aquarium or some science museum, or boat rides, etc etc. I think they would enjoy going up the Pisa tower - try and book tickets before online as there are always queues and your time slot might be hours later. They might even enjoy visiting a hilltop town like San Gimignano, it is so lovely and ancient, or the huge square in Siena. Maybe even an art gallery or museum, but too many of the same stuff usually bores kids. The Coleseum in Rome would probably interest them and also the Vatican and the Fontana dei Trevi area in Rome where they throw money in the fountain for good luck. There is the best gelateria in my opinion in the whole of Italy in the square. I always have to go there to drop a penny (not the saying lol) in the fountain and for a huge ice-cream with as many different flavours as possible when we visit Rome. You have to of course take them to a gondola ride in Venice and to chase the pigeons in San Marco square. Florence is nearly always really really crowdy any time of year, I would not know whether they would enjoy it as a base there, again as another reviewer suggested.

    If you do intend to drive in Tuscany maybe you can book into a hotel or agriturismo ouside city centre and do trips from there, you will find big parking lots just outside all major towns and cities. Avoid going in centre of cities as you can easily get penalties as many roads are one way or need authorised entry. More than a year ago we stayed at an agriturismo just outside San Gimignano, less than a km away, you can even walk it to San Gimignano. They have suites or apartments and offer breakfast and dinner with very high reviews. They do not have farm animals, but they have a winery and they offer free tours around their wine cellars and factory which might be interesting for your kids. They even do wine tasting. This agriturismo is called Agriturismo Nicolai Palagetto di Sotto. It really has lovely surrounding Tuscan scenary yet still close to San Gimignano. You can use San Gimignano as a base to visit towns and cities in Tuscany. Again I would certainly recommend that you drive in Tuscany.

    I do think you did plan your stays well, if I understood right 3 nights in Venice, 4 nights in Tuscany and 4 nights in Rome.


    Maybe you can book a viator day tour from Naples that includes 2 hours in Pompei and a trip to the Vesuvius mountain. We went to Pompeii in 2011 and after a couple of hours my kids did get bored (and so did I to tell the truth). I do think that they would enjoy the Vesuvius excursion more - as I said you might do both by taking a day tour, if you mnage to make it on time from Rome that is.

    If you have dinner at an agriturismo, make sure that they provide individual tables not a communal one, small intimate agriturismos like to do that (not Palagetto di Sotto). Sometimes it would be just Italian holidaymakers and the kids can get really bored listening to Italians talking. It happened to us, us parents enjoyed it as we speak Italian, but my kids hated it and found it so boring. They told me to never again go to Agriturismos unless we had our own table. A few agriurismos would have a small games room with a billiard table or whatever, that might make it a more enjoyable stay for the kids. But in general, kids love the larger hotels where they can move around and which have many facilities like indoor pools, games rooms, computer access etc. I know, it is not easy to keep kids satisfied on holiday.

    If it were me, I would hire a car, wastes less time than having to go to train station etc since you want to visit so many places. But if you are not that experienced in driving in centres of cities like Rome, I would suggest that you hire car from Venice after your visit there, have a hired car throughout your duration in Tuscany, and drop off car when you drive to Rome, maybe at airport or near train station. I just checked, there are day tours from Rome that do Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius in one day - check them out.

    Enjoy your trip with your kids - seeing your kids enjoying it makes it double the fun, at least it does for me.

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    This would be my suggestion based on a mid-July vacation (Florence will be hot and humid)and assuming you are willing to rent a car.
    Day 1: Reach Venice by 4pm - orient ourselves in the evening after checking in etc
    Day 2: Tour Venice
    Day 3: Tour Venice
    Day 4: Pick up car at Venice train station and drive to agriturismo with pool in Tuscany
    Day 5: Tour Florence
    Day 6: Day tour of Pisa and Lucca
    Day 7: Tour San Gimignano and Volterra (or other towns in Tuscany
    Day 8: Drive to Orvieto and drop off car - do Underground Orvieto tours (caves) and St. Patrick's well, see Duomo
    Day 9: Rome
    Day 10: Rome
    Day 11: Rome
    Day 12: Day trip to Ostia Antica instead of Pompeii
    Day 13: A bit of Rome before heading to Airport from late afternoon flight.

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    I wrote a whole book about traveling in Italy with a kid (http://travelswithgeorge.com) and it's sometimes surprising what registers with them. Or at least, what registered with my son. He definitely liked Venice because it's so cool, with all the boats. I don't know that Tuscany appealed to him as much. He liked the leaning tower, because it was something he had heard about. In Rome he was pretty excited about the Colosseum: again, he knew about it, and it's just so massive. Your itinerary is fantastic. I personally like to drive because I think it saves time and adds lots of flexibility. Driving in the big cities is difficult though, so you could drive between (and not including) Venice and Rome. Enjoy it all so much! You will.

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    Are the foals boys, girls or both?

    You will need to do creepy neat things to stave off the art-and-church boredom that even adults can get in Italy. One suggestion - take the kids to some of the various catacombs in Rome. Another: take them here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_della_Concezione_dei_Cappuccini

    Of the multitudinous churches in Italy, one of the most interesting is in Siena.

    I wouldn't drive IN Rome or Florence, period. Olga (travels w/george) is Italian and perhaps accustomed to the driving. You are not and Italians drive like they're in Formula 1 race cars even when they're coaxing some acceleration from their Fiats.

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    After 18 months of living in and discovering Europe with our girls (9 &7), we have found several ways to get our girls interested in where we are going that might help you. Generally we find that if they have seen it on tv or read about it they are more engaged.
    1)travel tv shows- Samantha brown 30min shows give a quick visual overview of lots of different cities in Italy. History channel also has several interesting documentaries on Romans, Florence etc that are very well done.
    2) books- horrible histories, who was .. Series (Leonardo da Vinci, Marco polo etc), heroes of Olympus, Melanie Martin in Italy, etc.
    3) Museum gift shops-we normally stop in straight away to see if they have a kids guide to use during the visit. Sometimes the information desk may have something but normally they are clueless.

    Our kids favorite activities were
    Florence- climbing the Duomo ( go early), Leonardo museum, kids tour of Palazzo Vecchio (reserve in advance), kids guide book for Uffizi, running around the bobolii gardens. Activity book Treasure hunt Florence (Amazon).
    Rome- using the Rome Reconstructed book to explore the ruins, Watching the cats in the ruins, The visual guide to the Colosseum,
    Venice- getting lost!!, pigeons, gelato, prisons in the doge palace, shopping for the perfect mask. Counting winged lions, ' Treasure hunt Venice' ( also Amazon)

    Other random suggestions - let them run around the piazzas as it is nearly impossible to find a playground. Try staying in a vacation apartment to get more space and have simpler kid friendly meals. Avoid driving in Florence and Rome, it is nerve racking!

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